It is always a special time to reflect over the past year and see the steps we have taken and how we have grown. Some years hold bigger changes than others, and 2015 was certainly a year of many changes throughout the program: changes that have challenged us and changes that have made us stronger.Read More
WE WERE ETHICAL FASHION WHEN ETHICAL FASHION WASN’T COOL.
Compassionate Capitalism. Ethical Fashion. Social Entrepreneurship. Fair Trade. Living wage. These are all terms that have, of late, become buzzwords.
At Mi Esperanza, since 2004 social justice for women has always been our aim. Our sole focus. We were ethical when ethical wasn’t cool.
In Honduras, the vast majority of women have to fight for what comes so easily to most women in the developed world. Life in the developing world is tough, unkind and generally unjust. For 13 years we have provided education, free of charge, to un-educated and underemployed women in Honduras to give them a “leg up”. To provide them with HOPE and opportunity.
13 years later, we are literally bursting at the seams with opportunity for our graduates and new students. 2014 has been a year of harvest. So often we hear of the “overnight success”, the entertainer who bursts onto the scene with little known previous fanfare. We all know that most often, years of work likely went into the making of that “overnight success.” And so it is with Mi Esperanza. All of our hard work in previous years, along with your support, is now culminating into fresh, new opportunities as U.S. fashion label after U.S. fashion label have approached us and asked us to produce their goods.
We are currently producing goods in the sewing workshop and our jewelry studio for 7 U.S. labels. This allows us to employ over 70 women seasonally to produce these goods. It is our fervent desire to employ these and more on a year-round basis, and we believe it is immanent.
As we look forward to more and more opportunities moving forward, we want to thank you so much for your belief in us when ethical wasn’t “cool”. Thank you for your prayer support and for standing with us financially.
2014 welcomed a new board member to the Mi Esperanza team, E.A. Lepine. E.A. started working with Mi Esperanza as a summer intern in 2008. She quickly fell in love with our mission and our people and continued to come back to Honduras to work with product development for Mi Esperanza. EA now runs a small clothing company and employs the Mi Esperanza maquila for the production of her line. EA has a passion for the growth of the program and brings a young and innovative personality to the Mi Esperanza board. E.A. is married to her husband James and they live in Denver, CO.
Maquila upgrades, Back to school partnerships and Winterfest production.
This year because of the outpouring of donations, we were able to purchase 4 industrial sewing machines, industrial sergers and a leather stitching machine for our sewing maquila. This will allow our ladies to manufacture higher quality products and they will be able to utilize heavier and more durable fabrics. Mi Esperanza strives to provide well-made products that will last, and the addition of these new machines will help us to do so. It will also allow us to seek and accept more jobs from outside labels to generate work for our women, program recognition and support for Mi Esperanza. We are excited about the possibilities.
The Winterfest Group, who is responsible for the popular yearly youth event held in Arlington, TX and Gatlinburg, TN, hired the Mi Esperanza maquila to produce their 2014 registration bags for their 600 group leaders. Our ladies in Santa Ana were busy sewing the bags from large corn sacks all summer! We are grateful to Dudley Chancy and his team for providing this work to our women!
An exciting avenue of work for our maquila has come through the Back to School program run by The Honduras Project, thehondurasproject.org. Through their yearly back to school program Mi Esperanza has had the blessing of making school uniforms for children living in poverty. The Honduras Project on several occasions has hired our maquila to make 100’s of uniforms that they distribute during their school supply drive. This is a huge win/win opportunity. Children are receiving uniforms (that are mandatory to attend school, but families can not afford) and Honduran women are being paid to make them!
We were also hired by another group of volunteers working on the north coast of Honduras to produce 65 school bags. It is the same situation as the uniforms..bags for children in need and work for Honduran women.
Please contact us if you would like to fund such a project!
This year we also added Jessica Schroer to our board of directors. You can go to our “about us” section and read all about Jessica. We are happy to have her as part of our team!
Computer class is upgraded, Beauty school move and expansion & New office space
- Through donations from TORCH mission teams were able to upgrade our very old computers that were running on Windows 97! The upgrades began in April when we replaced the first 4 and by summers end we had replaced all of those ancient computers. We also were able to purchase a wireless printer and put all of our computers on line! These updates will provide a much higher level of computer education to our students.
- Through a grant from Delta Kappa Gamma we moved our beauty school from the old Mi Esperanza house to our city center location. We could not be more pleased with the new space and all it will bring to the beauty program. The new classroom has the capacity to educate twice the number of women each year. This is of great benefit because the beauty school always holds a waiting list.
The new salon has 6 full styling stations, 6 mani/pedi stations, two shampoo bowls and a stacked washer and dryer. The new space is a “working salon” environment for our students. We are happy to have the beauty school under the same roof as the computer lab, sewing school and Mi Esperanza offices.
Also this year we were able to gain space for our administrative offices. Until now Lori, Gina and Mario shared one room that was also a storage area. Now we have a 3 room office area!
We are grateful for all the donations that allowed for so many improvements this year!
Product development, Store Expansion and Full Classes
In our ninth year, 2011, Mi Esperanza experienced more changes as we moved the store into a larger area of the center. Once again, we painted and decorated with the help of many friends and opened the doors as our first groups of the summer arrived. Everyone loves coming to shop and we have had other ministries and organizations bring their groups by as well.
Julie Lawson of Orlando, Florida, is an artist who has joined our family of designers. In April, she began teaching a group of women she knows from Choluteca how to make jewelry she has designed. The new product line has been extremely successful and we love working with Julie and appreciate her efforts to expand our program.
EA Wade returned to spend time in our sewing workshop. A result of her time there produced our new Statement line. Again, the response to this newest addition of textile products and designs has been enthusiastically received by our fans.
We attended Winterfest, Gatlinburg for the first time and thoroughly enjoyed our time there. Next was Tulsa Workshop in March and Sonquest in Orlando in September. We always love seeing our fans and sharing the latest creations of Mi Esperanza.
In July, Mario Martinez joined our Mi Esperanza family as Leo Silva left to begin a business of his own. We welcome Mario and wish Leo great success.
Our classes were full this summer with three sewing classes, two beauty classes and two computer classes in session simultaneously. We had almost 100 women attending. One hundred women who desired to learn a skill that would enable them to get jobs or start businesses that would support their families. This is a dream fulfilled from the first time the hope for a program like Mi Esperanza was barely a spoken word coming from our hearts.
Classrooms double, NEW Mi Esperanza location opens and we launch our NEW website
2010 was a year of growth and expansion. During the course of 2010 we expanded our computer and beauty school programs. Each class now offers 2 classes which has doubled the number of women we can educate at one time. This helps greatly with the wait time a women has when she registers for a class. The demand for FREE education is huge and many women are waiting, now they do not have to wait quite as long.
Along with the existing classroom expansions we added a new permanent classroom location. With grant funding from DELTA KAPPA GAMA International we were able to open a new sewing school in Santa Ana, Honduras. 30 Kilo from the capital city this classroom will serve a whole new area and demographic of Honduran women. The first class opened with 30 students.
January 2010 also launched our NEW Mi Esperanza website. Thank You Joel Steidl for an AMAZING site!
Mi Esperanza opens store front in Honduras
As the Mi Esperanza product line expanded and the interest in our program grew we felt it was time to develop a permanent space to house and showcase the Mi Esperanza product line. By placing our new store in the same location as our center this expansion was set not only to serve as a store front but allow visitors to see our facility as well. When a group comes to shop at our store we share with them the vision of Mi Esperanza and how their purchase will help to lift women out of poverty.
Everything in our store serves to hep women all over Honduras. If the product is not produced by Mi Esperanza, then it is made by other women's group who share our vision to help women in poverty. One example; candles from a women's abuse shelter. All profits made from the sale of our products goes back into the programs of Mi Esperanza.
Mi Esperanza makes a BIG MOVE!
Out growing our training center Mi Esperanza moved into 4 rooms at a handicap rehabilitation center in Tegucigalpa. The new center is centrally located near a large bus system drop, which makes it convenient for women all over the city. After a lot of hard work of cleaning and repairs the new centers expanded size has provided a large work area for our sewing classroom and the sewing co-op. The new space has plenty of room for more sewing machines and storage of fabric and supplies. In the new computer class space we were able to expanded from 6 computer stations to 12 stations and the class is consistently full.
In 2008 Gina Larios joined the staff as our office manager and administrative assistant. Gina was formally the personal assistant to the First Lady of Honduras from the previous administration. She is a very valuable addition to our team.
The addition of the Piñata Making Class to our satellite program began in 2008. It is a quick month long course that teaches a skill that has very low overhead to start a small home based business. It is a class geared to a demographic of women who have no reading or writing skills. The class is fun and lively and always very well attended!
In May of 2008 Founder Lori Connell move to Honduras with her husband Mark to live full time. Lori is overseeing day-to-day operation of the program and manages the Mi Esperanza staff. As the program has continued to grow the need for a fulltime presence in Honduras had become a necessity. Lori and Mark’s lives passion is to serve those living in extreme poverty and count it a blessing to have this opportunity to live among the people of Honduras.
Mi Esperanza goes Satellite!
As the economy worldwide crumbles, those living on less than $2.00 a day are hit the hardest. As the economy declined so did the numbers in our training classes. Many of the women could no longer afford the rising transportation cost to get to and from class at the center. The solution was to bring class to them; by doing this we are reaching deep into communities to break the cycle of poverty. With the start of our satellite sewing class we have classes of 25+ women with a waiting list for the next class. This program will continue as we strive to place remote Mi Esperanza classrooms around the city to serve all areas surrounding the city.
With the goal of finding a way to self-sustain the program the Mi Esperanza Sewing Co-op was born. Hiring sewing graduates and designing a signature product “The Gypsy Bag”, the co-op began producing the product for us to sell to help pay the bills. This endeavor is a double success story, we provide women with jobs and Mi Esperanza began an income for the organization. This continues to be a work in progress. While developing our brand we have introduced more products to our line and began distributing these products to retails shops in the USA and on the web, with the goal to continue to expand the availability of our products to a wider consumer base.
Personal skills bridges from classroom to work force
With the goal that everyone woman will find success through her education, Mi Esperanza began their Personal Skills class for ALL Mi Esperanza students. The personal skills class is a course designed to prepare our women for the work place. Teaching them how to prepare a resume, the job interview process, hygiene, dress and what will be expected of them from an employer and what should not be expected. With this course our women can leave with confidence to enter a world that is new to them and one they never thought would be in their future. Raising the self-esteem of our women is a big part of what we do. The class is taught by Prady Silva.
Success Through Education
In the spring of 2004 our project manager Leo Silva was hired. Leo is a graphic artist by trade and is a fluent English speaker. Leo was hired to oversee the program and manage the Mi Esperanza Center on a day-to-day basis and keep the program moving while the founders were in the U.S. Leo is married to Prady and they have a son Christopher. They live in Tegucigalpa. Prady has since become a partner to Leo in his work and helps with our computer training.
City Center Opens Doors
The Mi Esperanza Training Center was opened in the capitol city of Tegucigalpa. While working in villages with women through the micro loan program it became clear that the addition of a training school was the next step for the program. Women living in extreme poverty simply do not have opportunity for education in turn they do not have the knowledge they need to succeed in business. The opening of the center brought skill training to women in three areas computer, salon and sewing. Offering women the opportunity to obtain a skill offers them the tools to open doors to a self-sustaining life. We know that ending world poverty begins with women. Research and experience have shown us that women in poor countries are more likely to spend their income on food, education, and healthcare for their children - a long-term investment that lifts entire families and communities out of poverty. When the family income is in the hands of the mother a child's chances of surviving increases by 20%. This is why economic opportunity for women is so important to ending the extreme poverty that cripples communities in the developing world.